This cover, posted on Caldey Island in 1988, features the four different Caldey local stamps produced between 1974 and 1982 – all bearing a nice “Caldey Island” cancellation – and a postally used 18p Royal Mail stamp to cover the onward journey from the mainland.
The commemorative cover also features an illustration of Caldey Island on the front, and a card inside that tells the history of Caldey post office.
(We have pixellated the address of the recipient for the purposes of our illustration – on the actual cover it is clear.)
About Caldey Island
Located a few miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales, Caldey Island has been owned by the Cistercian Order of monks since 1925. The first Cistercians took up residence on the island four years later, and continue their work there to this day, though Caldey’s history of monasticism goes back much further, to the 12th century.
Starting in 1973, Caldey began issuing its own attractive souvenir stamps, denominated in “dabs” after a local fish. Available from the island’s gift shop, these stamps were intended to be used on postcards sent from the island by its regular day visitors, alongside a British stamp, and cancelled with a special Caldey Island handstamp. The island has its own British Post Office branch, so the Caldey stamps have always been for novelty value, rather than serving a local post requirement.
A little effort is needed to piece together the exact chronology of Caldey stamp issues, but the first, issued on 1 May 1973, was a blue and black stamp depicting the Monastery Church, designed by local Tenby artist Claude A Page and printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson and Co.
Subsequent issues featured St David’s Church (15 August 1974, red and black), St Illtud’s Church (21 June 1976, yellow and green), Caldey Abbey (January 1980, gold and black, marking the 1979 golden jubilee of the monks’ arrival on Caldey), and the Abbey Church (1982, blue and black). All were denominated “2 dabs”.
In 2001, a new red and black stamp depicting Caldey Lighthouse was produced (again with a 2 dabs denomination).
On 27 September 2018, the first new Caldey stamps in 17 years were issued. The “Island Wildlife” set features three self-adhesive stamps, recalling the style of the earlier designs and depicting a black swan, red squirrel and gypsy cobs respectively.
You can read more about the postal history of Caldey Island – and see pictures of all the previous issues – in our blog post here.